O'Neil patches shallow holes and divots with Ready Patch because it dries fast, sands smooth, and stays flexible. Deep cracks and rotten spots are best repaired with two-step epoxies, such as those made by Advanced Repair Technology. (For a step-by-step instructions, see Repairing Rot with Epoxy.) The days of using polyester auto-body fillers on wood are over. "They cure too hard," says Portland, Oregon–based painting contractor Kathleen George. "They look good at first, but then they peel away." House Painters Thornton

When the primer is dry, caulk all small joints (less than ¼-inch-wide) in the siding and trim. Most pros use siliconized acrylics—paint won't stick to straight silicones—but Guertin and O'Neil like the new, more expensive urethane acrylics for their greater flexibility and longevity. O'Neil stresses that it's shortsighted to skimp on caulk. "If the joint fails, you're back to square one." Guertin uses the lifetime rating as his quality guide. "I don't expect 35-year caulk will last 35 years, but it should last longer than a 15-year caulk." Thornton House Painting
And of course, there's always a time and place for crisp white paint. Here's proof that sometimes it really is the best choice of all, even if it's also the most obvious. Alexander M. Reid opted for a crispy, bright white for this traditional bathroom and then added splashes of blue for a classic combo. The graphic floor tiles liven it up and the white walls serve as a perfect backdrop for the gallery of artwork. House Painting Thornton
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